What Is Front-of-Package Warning Labelling (FOPWL)?
• Front of package warning labels (FOPWL) are labels or seals applied to the front of packaged products which allow consumers to correctly, quickly and easily identify when a product contains excessive amounts of critical nutrients. Critical nutrients of public health concern are: sugars, total fats, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. These nutrients when consumed in excess are linked to obesity and NCDs, in particular high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar levels and overweight/obesity.
• The actual front-of-package text-based seals are placed in the main panel visible to the consumer to indicate if the product is “HIGH IN SUGAR”, “HIGH IN SODIUM”, “HIGH IN SATURATED FATS”, “HIGH IN TOTAL FATS”, and/or “HIGH IN TRANS FATS”.
• Nutrient profile models are used to establish the thresholds that define when these critical nutrients are in excess.
Why Do We Need Front-of-Package Warning Labelling (FOPWL)?
• High blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar levels and overweight/obesity are the top three risk factors for mortality in the Americas and Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of mortality, morbidity and disability in the Caribbean.
• Rates of overweight and obesity in the region are among the highest in the world and most worrying among children where 1 in 3 children and teens is overweight or obese.
• Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than tobacco use, alcohol use and unsafe sex combined. Unhealthy diets are a major risk factor contributing to the high rates of obesity and NCDs; and are fueled by the widespread availability and consumption of processed and ultra-processed products which contain high levels of “critical nutrients”, namely sugars, total fats, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
• COVID-19 has underscored the urgent need to invest in evidence-based policies and programmes aimed at preventing and treating obesity and NCDs.
The Scientific Evidence to Support Octagonal Front-of-Package Warning Labelling (FOPWL)
• There are hundreds of different front of package labelling (FOPL) systems applied to products worldwide, with different purposes. However, there is robust scientific evidence showing that front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) or nutritional warnings are the best performing labelling system for the objective of allowing consumers to correctly, quickly and easily identify products that contain excessive amounts of critical nutrients of public health concern (ie. sugars, fats and salt/sodium).
• A recent study in Jamaica conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness of Jamaica, the University of Technology of Jamaica, and PAHO found that octagonal warning labels performed best in improving the capacity of consumers to make healthier food decisions in Jamaica.
Support for Front of Package Nutrition Warning Labelling
(i) Political Support
Front of Package Warning Labelling is supported by strong regional mandates, including the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration, the CARPHA 6-Point Policy Package approved by Heads of Government, and the communiqués of the 37th and 39th Conference of Heads of State and Government.
More recently, Primer Minister and Chairman of CARICOM, Dr. the Hon Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, noted in this Statement at the CARICOM 32nd Intersessional Heads of Government Meeting that “We need to redouble our efforts in addressing NCDs and exploring their nexus with food and nutrition security”, and hoped for deliberations on Advancing the Regional Agenda on Food and Nutrition Security to assist in this regard. Read the full statement here.
It has also been noted as a rights-compliant response in a recent Statement by the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Health, which highlights States’ obligations to adopt regulatory measures aimed at tackling NCDs.
Support from Honorable Dr. Christopher Tufton – Health Minister Welcomes ‘Right To Know’ Campaign
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Barbados – HCC Sings High Praises for Barbados Minister in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands’ Commitment to Front of Package Warning Labels
(ii) Civil Society Support
Statement of Support from the Caribbean Association of Dieticians and Nutritionists (CANDi)
Open Letter from Caribbean Pediatricians which expresses support for FOPWL
Expert Open letter in response to assertions of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association
Suzanne Soares-Wynter | We have a right to know what is in our food
Researcher Wants Nutrition Labels That Can Lead To Healthier Food Choices
EDITORIAL: FOR THE HEALTH OF OUR PEOPLE
HCC PRESIDENT: MEDIA HAS ROLE TO PLAY IN NUTRITION LABEL PUSH
Maisha Hutton | Put public health before industry profits
Joint statement with National Consumers League Jamaica